Gradually … Then Suddenly

In the book The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway paints a scenario where one of the key characters, Mike Campbell, is asked, “How did you go bankrupt?” His response is “Gradually … then suddenly.” This is so very applicable to a recession scenario. Actually, it is applicable to all our lives—you don’t fail suddenly; you fail gradually through a series of small failures everyday. The day you fail is just a culmination of all the small failures you have had.

Yes, you can get away with “no progress during a recession” by blaming the recession, but really, if things are not going well, you should blame yourself for the way you behaved leading up to the recession.

“Gradually … then suddenly” is the phenomenon that will explain a lot of mess we are in today. We are trying to find instant solutions to problems that we have created over years.

If you are a knowledge worker, there is a big dilemma today. If you are engaged in a craft that can be “well defined” chances are that sooner than later your job will be outsourced. Not to another location in the U.S., but to another country. Hard work won’t help. Why? Because technology really makes it easy for commodity skills to be leveraged from a remote location without a large overhead. An overseas worker may match you on your commodity skills, but you can’t work for the same wages.

So what should one do?

First is to realize that general job skills (like technology skills) provide only an entry ticket. You can’t thrive (or even survive for long) with just those skills. You need skills beyond that. Skills such as building a personal brand, building long-term relationships, learning how to learn, etc.

This Thanksgiving I wanted to do something to help.

Looking back, I recall that this was exactly the topic of my book Beyond Code (foreword by my hero Tom Peters), which was published in late 2005. The book did very well both here in the U.S. and in India. I had spent ten years researching and writing the book. One simple plan was to give this book away for FREE—no strings attached. Kenzi Sugihara from Select Books (the publisher) was in full support.

So, as of yesterday, the complete version of Beyond Code is free. You can download the book with no strings attached. Here is the link.

Finally, here is a thing about life:
Something that has been built over a long period of time can be destroyed almost instantly. However, the opposite is not true—something that has been destroyed over a long period cannot be restored instantly.

I wish you the very best for this holiday season

(Cool Friend Rajesh Setty is intimately involved in working with like-minded entrepreneurs to bring good ideas to life and spread their adoption. You can learn more about him at

Raj Setty posted this on November 20, 2008, in Brand You.
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